Sunday, August 5, 2012

Living Here: Annual Storm Rehearsal

The patio in a tropical storm, 2007

We're watching the approach of tropical storm Ernesto, forecast right now to touch the continent a good distance southeast of Mérida, probably as far south as Belize, early on Wednesday.

No one is concerned at this point that Ernesto will amount to a significant emergency in Mérida. Most likely we will just have some rainy days and a bit of wind. However, Ernesto is noteworthy because it's our first real tropical storm warning of the year. At some point in the earlier stages of every hurricane season an event occurs that makes us realize that it's time to check our storm readiness. Ernesto is that take-notice event of 2012.

We did have a brief windstorm in April that brought hurricane-force gusts to Mérida, but that was an oddity, over in less than an hour, and unconnected with hurricane season, so didn't cause too much excitement about storm preparedness.

An April windstorm was too early to cause much excitement
This morning after checking the weather news, I made a new list of things to check, do, and buy.

Today I am pruning and cleaning the yard, roof and terraces of debris and objects that might blow, be damaged by wind or impede drainage. I'm also making a mental inventory of things like planters and outdoor furniture that will need to be secured in case of high winds.

Tomorrow I'll shop to bulk up the larder. I will buy mostly food that doesn't depend upon refrigeration and that can be readied and consumed, if necessary, without the use of electricity or the stove. I don't eat a lot of prepared foods, but canned tuna, hard cheese, fat-free tostadas, along with fruit and vegetables that keep well are at the top of my list. I also will make sure I have at least a week's worth of purified water on hand.

I've checked my supply of candles, matches and batteries and made a short list for the hardware store which includes spare batteries, tape, some rope and wire. I also today pulled out the sheets of plywood I salvaged some time back to protect the front door and windows. I think tomorrow I will have time to measure, cut these to size and check the fit, and then number them so they can be installed quickly some day when we have a real hurricane.


On my list for the eve of the storm, in this case Tuesday (if anything develops) is to charge the cell phone and radio, to make sure I can stay in touch if the house loses power. This is the day to check the gas level in the car and top it off, if necessary. Were a real storm getting close, this would be the day I would hang the plywood, tape glass, gather up the rags, squeegee, mop and buckets, and secure things around the property.

At that point there won't be much else to do but stay close to home and wait to see what happens.

And after this dress rehearsal, I will be mostly ready for whatever may occur during the rest of the hurricane season, which extends until the end of November.

19 comments:

  1. After many, many years of hurricanes living on the Gulf Coast, I'm so glad I don't have to do that anymore. In 1983 we went through Alicia. Date, August 18th. No electricity for three weeks. The sounds of chainsaws to this day reminds me of all the damaged trees that had to be taken down. No mas para mi..........Thankfully.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Despite nine years here, I haven't been through a real storm. The last big one happened the year before I bought my house. But I think I am ready.

      With these sturdy old stone houses, if you are prepared nothing really blows away, it just gets wet. From what folks tell me, the biggest issue is waiting for power to be restored and for streets to be cleared of downed cables and tree limbs. I'm not leaving here, so one of these days I'll see for myself. I don't exactly look forward to it, but it will be interesting.

      Delete
  2. You're so right, Marc--even if we don't get hit by this one, it is a practice session. I'm certainly keeping notes myself, on things "to do" such as early on, last minute etc. I have two dogs, and have finally figured out where to put them.

    I moved here shortly before Isadore hit, and I've never really recovered. Quite frankly, I'm seeing this preparation as a bit depressing; but I do console myself with the fact that I lived through Isador, with very little pre-planning, so….Buen Suerte.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel pretty ready, so although I am sure there will be surprises I think I'll make it without too much trouble. I'll call you when a big one is imminent. You can tell me how I'm doing...

      Delete
  3. I keep a few of the new LED flashlights in my storm kit. A brick of AAs will keep you in light for months. I have the headlamp type, they take 3 AA size batteries, they burn 40-50 hours on a set of three.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good advice, Norm. Fortunately my need for long-term lighting isn't too great around here. When power is out I just go to bed early, and when I wake up it's light out. My one LED flashlight seems to go forever on one battery and I have a handcranked/solar-powered LED light for when that fails. And...this storm isn't likely to amount to anything, so I've still got some time. When we have a real storm, I will keep you informed..if I have internet.

      Thanks for keeping in touch.

      Delete
  4. Good preparation is key and it sounds like you are ready. As you said, those old homes stand up well to wind. We have someone staying in our house now, so I feel better that, at least, they can monitor for any water getting into the house. I do hope that power will not be out for long, if at all. Be safe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really looks as if this storm will amount to very little in Mérida, if it stays on the predicted track. Occasionally they do veer off, but it's not packing much of a punch at this stage. I only brought it up because it prompted me to think about the storm season. We'll see how things run...

      Delete
  5. I've never lived through a hurricane but my mom did (in a coastal town in Cuba) and she never got tired of talking about it, particularly the wave that came after the hurricane itself.

    My partner and I were in Isla Mujeres a few weeks after a hurricane three or four years ago, and was pretty impressed with the response by the government (but maybe that was because IM and Cancun are resort areas).

    Good luck.

    al

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I don't believe too much luck is needed this time. It's likely to just rain on us some here in the city, although some folks further south, especially those in flimsy houses, may have some trouble. It's very wet here today. We'll have a better idea later tonight of what's to come. I'm sleeping in the downstairs, more secure bedroom, just in case it gets windy. The upstairs bedroom is cooler in warm weather, but because it is airy and has lots of airflow, it gets damp when the rain is driven by a significant wind.

      Delete
  6. Hola Marc,

    Mérida is far enough inland that damage should be limited. That said, it's better to be prepared. Here in Boston we are occasionally threatened by hurricanes, and I always take the warnings seriously. My friends make fun of me, but I'd rather have all the patio furniture in the garage, and other loose items buttoned down rather than having to worry. I also live only a few hundred feet from the shore, so I'm more exposed than most.

    Last August we were threatened with a hurricane (I forget the name), which was also forecast to create a storm surge. I seriously worried about flooding, and did a lot to get ready.

    At the end of the day, we got some rain, a bit of wind, but it was overall a non-starter. Still, I felt better for having been prepared.

    Good luck!

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where in 1938, a hurricane did do a tremendous amount of damage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do think that the wind and rain will be very limited here this time, but as I mentioned, it's a good rehearsal for later in the season. September is the busiest month for hurricanes. August and October also can be busy. There will be more storms. I've done about all I can to be ready, if needed.

      Delete
  7. Marc,

    Thanks for your blog and your comments about the incoming storm, which, as it seems, should amount to just a few hours of rough wind. We are from Montréal and my partner and I are really thinking of moving to Mérida and we should be visiting for a month this November. We are "in love" with the city (and the beach in Progreso!) and we feel the time is coming for a definite move (we are in our early fifties). Good luck and we'll keep reading your blog. Bonne chance et merci infiniment! José

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, José. I am glad you enjoy the blog. By all means let me know when you are coming to town. I enjoy meeting readers and have made some good friends that way.

      Delete
  8. My Spanish teacher gave me a good tip about these preparations. He suggested that every year I simply begin early, stock up on the water, canned foods and such, gradually. That sure would have reduced my last minute preparation stress considerably. So I'm doing it--each trip to the Super, a couple more bottles of water, a little more canned food and such. At the end of the season, I can always use the water, and if the expiration dates permit, the food might even make it to the next hurricane season. Another benefit--I'm sure I'm not the only one who has suffered through an occasional long electrical failure, even without a hurricane.
    The water sure can help then as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have tried the little-by-little approach, but I tend to use up the supplies. I do try to keep more stuff on hand during the storm season, but what happens is that I usually make one big shop when a new threat seems imminent. So far, so good. I think as long as you go early enough, it's possible to get what you need.

      Delete
  9. Let me add, Marc--I'm not aware of any area which is disaster-proof. One of many reasons I chose Mérida was that we do NOT experience earthquakes. My years in San Francisco cured me of wanting to even taste that experience again-- not only was it scary, but the costs to make a house earth-quake resistant quite high.

    But there are so many other risks throughout the world: tidal waves, droughts (and the consequent forest-fires), nuclear-provoked hazards, crime, water availability, etc. Probably none of us are home-free. "Mother Nature" is not always a loving mother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I grew up, we moved around a lot, and experienced many quakes, a large flood, tornadoes, and tropical storms. We experienced these things, but never took the brunt of any...we never suffered too much. My mother said it was good experience for us, and I think that was true. I've seen enough of these things that it's not a huge surprise when they happen. I do think that Mérida is more secure from natural disasters than most other places I have lived. Our worst issue is storms and hurricanes. In the city, if you have a good house, you may get very wet and it can be inconvenient, but a tropical storm or hurricane is not a huge life or property threatening event.

      Delete
  10. True, not a huge property risk, at least to the house itself. But Isodore's most adverse effects for me were caused by the humidity, which were intensified because of the lack of electricity for a fan or an AC.

    Well, there was one more terrible effect--a tree in front of my house fell and crushed my iron gate so that I could not get out. Were it not for the kindness of a neighbor, whom I'd never even met, I might have spent a lot of time trapped. This kind man mobilized a bunch of other men, and they began hacking away at the tree so that it could be moved off my gate. I'll never forget him.

    But only today did I find the phone number to call for the city's street tree-trimming service. (Ayuntatel--924-0000) I have another tree which needs trimming--which will reduce it's chance of being blown over.

    And then there's "bracing the gas tanks!" I'm hoping to be able to change over to a stationary tank--which is probably too heavy to require bracing.

    ReplyDelete

I appreciate comments, but will delete comments that are rude, offensive or off topic. Unfortunately, due to the heavy volume of spam, comment moderation has been enabled. I will try to approve comments promptly, but your patience is appreciated.
If you have technical trouble leaving your comment, please email it to:
marc_olson@hotmail.com
and I will post it for you.